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North End rezoning draws opposition

August 20, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

Some North End residents said they are opposed to a request to rezone property at the northeast corner of Eastern Boulevard and North Potomac Street for commercial use.

Ever since the city extended Eastern Boulevard to Frederick Street the road has been used as a beltway, said Ralph Tracy, 72, of 230 Potomac Heights.

Trucks using Eastern Boulevard as a shortcut between Interstates 81 and 70 have brought noise and air pollution to a once quiet neighborhood, Tracy said.

"We need traffic relief for this area. We don't need it aggravated by additional commercial development," Tracy said.

GEMCO Development has asked that 14.5 acres be rezoned from agricultural to commercial use, but doesn't have a specific business in mind, said Richard Hopkins, the group's real estate agent.

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The Hagerstown Planning Commission heard GEMCO's request on Aug. 12. The panel probably will decide at a Sept. 9 workshop what recommendation to make to the City Council, said Matt Davis, a city planner. The workshop will be held in Room 407 in City Hall.

A 1977 attempt to rezone the land for a fast-food restaurant called the Red Barn failed after Mayor Pat Paddack vetoed the council's vote to rezone the land, Davis said. There was not enough support on the council to overturn the veto, he said.

Only about four acres on the corner are usable since most of the land is in a flood plain, Hopkins said. GEMCO has a contract to buy that land and 87 acres to the north, outside the city in Washington County, across from Long Meadow Shopping Center, he said.

GEMCO officials are not ready to reveal specifics, but he said business and residential development is being considered for the larger parcel in the county.

John Eisenhower said he doesn't want to be sitting on the back porch of his 210 Potomac Heights home and looking at a convenience store or a tavern on that corner.

"They could put anything in there that they care to," Eisenhower said.

Tracy said he also was concerned with traffic congestion at the intersection of Eastern Boulevard and Potomac Street.

If a business was built at that corner, the city and state would dictate what happens to the intersection and could make the developer widen it, Hopkins said.

"It's a very nice neighborhood," Eisenhower said. A commercial development at that corner would hurt residential property values, he said.

The public has until Saturday to send comments to the Hagerstown Planning Commission about the rezoning request, Davis said.

Comments can be dropped off at the Planning Department on the fourth floor of City Hall or sent to Hagerstown Planning Commission, City Hall, 1 E. Franklin St., Hagerstown, Md., 21740.

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